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  • December 18, 2011


Milk jug lampshade

I have seen these lampshades in shops, nice to be able to make them ourselves.

One simple cut-out shape lets you build all sorts of different designer-looking lampshades! You can make dozens different geometric forms using various numbers of the cut-out shape made from paper or plastic. All the standard mathematical polyhedrons and such are possible.

The pieces just fold together by hand into rigid forms, and you can take them apart and build into new shapes any time!

As seen in ReadyMade Magazine, Dec. 2007/Jan 2008 issue. Detailed instructions can be found at Instructables – Universal lamp shade

Mission: save plastic from the landfill.

What you need:

What you need

You will need sheets of paper or plastic that allow light to get through. The stiffness of your material determines how large your pieces can be – stiffer material for larger pieces and larger lamps, thinner material for smaller pieces and smaller lamps. (see next step). Those 2L milk jugs would work great,  you can also try laminated color tissue paper.

You will need a lamp fixture – just a raw socket on a cord. I found some nice ones at Ikea for $4, and some fluorescent bulbs. Use a compact fluorescent bulb so you can get more light without melting the plastic.

For a large construction use stiffer material for the same size piece. ie, if you are making a lampshade with 12 pieces use thinner material than if you are making a shade with 100 pieces, assuming same size pieces.

How to do it

You can cut your pieces in a couple ways:

  • Trace them out with a marker, then use scissors or a knife. this is slow but can be done easily by anyone.
  • Make a “cookie cutter” out of sheet metal in the shape of the part. then heat the cutter with a torch and use it to stamp out the parts (only works for plastic)
  • Use a laser cutter



Just try fitting the parts together! they go together in many different ways. you can make a variety of corners with 3, 4 or 5 adjoining pieces.

milk jug lampshade joining 5 pieces

There are several ways to think about and categorize the different types of geometric shapes that can be constructed. below I’ve shown top and bottom views of every different type of vertex (corner) that can be built. all larger assemblies are made up of a combination of the types of corners shown below, so think of them as your building blocks.

Corners can also be ‘left handed’ and ‘right handed’ – mirror images of each other.


You can make forms with anything from 8 to 100 or more pieces each. the only drawback seems to be that there is no way to make concave corners, only convex corners are possible.

1 Comment Post a comment

  1. May 13, 2012 at 4:24 am / Reply

    the idea is excelent.i like it.

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